His most important album to date: Morphs complex acoustic phenomena into seemingly homogenuous pastures.
Brazilian composer Thelmo Christovam is not just a musician. As a studied mathematician and physicist, his work is marked by a spirit of research, analysis and discovery. The territory of experimentation is clearly delineated by pre-prepared parameters, improvisation guided by concise and concrete modi operandi. His love for Noise is just as much the result of its physical immediacy as its proliferating and mushrooming complexity under a blanket of smooth distortion. After a lifetime of performing and releases all over the place, “Paisages Sonoras” could well be his most important album to date.
Spanning four tracks between seven and twentythree minutes of length, the CD bases on source materials culled from field recording trips and meticulous jams, incorporating grating granular textures and threedimensional organic correlations. Describing a journey from surreal, feverish hallucinations to translucent, spacey atmospherics, it is, most of all, a dynmamic enterprise slowly moving from focussed hollers to near-silence. In the final quarter of an hour, the immaterial drones of “Construcoes em Barro, Vidro e Plasma” are almost like listening to a distant waterfall frum inside a plastic tipi.
Of course, intimates to Christovam’s oeuvre will not be shocked. Over the past years, he has entered a dialogue with almost painfully beautiful sonorities and brutal shocktactic pulses, taken extended techniques to their limits and consoled improvisation with composition – crossbreeds are therefore immanent to his personality. And yet, the mixture between Noise and Sound Art of “Paisages” is genuinely intruiging. Even though the plentiful use of hiss, blur as well as the use of wind blowing over the top of his microphones as a musical element add a charming lofi character and underground credibility to this music, it manages to still come across as delicate, refined and dreamy.
The reason for this ambitious ambiguity can be found in the right balance between concretion and abstraction: Field recordings are always recognisable enough to reveal their human foundation, while simultaneously never giving away too much to spoil the mystery. The world that Christovam errects could be just outside your window, but it is as scary and alien as the mars-like rockscapes of Utah’s salt lake desert.
Without wanting to wander the usual route of comparisons, Christovam can therefore be put in line with artists like Asher Thal Nir. Just like the resident of Summervile, his interst lies in musically deforming reality around us until it resembles the image he sees in his haunting visions. The difference lies in the way they arrive at their results: While Thal Nir zooms in on a fractal-like aspect of sound until the difference between repetition and free flow looses itself, his Brazilian counterpart morphs complex acoustic phenomena into seemingly homogenuous pastures.
It is almost inconceivable that this music could end up being seductive and consoling. And yet, it never once sounds constructed. Especially the album’s heart piece, “Pradarias Inversas” is a long sheet of white noise breeding subtle scenes underneath its flittering palpatations. Here, Christovam forgets his background as a mathematician: Only the clever use of chance, rather than any congenially construed algorithm, could lead to this kind of metaphorically dense ambiance.
By Tobias Fischer
Homepage: Thelmo Christovam
Homepage: Triple Bath Records
By Tobias Fischer, published 2008-08-01